A Facebook page purporting to represent a “union” of white Harvard students surfaced on the social media platform last week, prompting outrage among students who denounced it as racist and an investigation into its origin from University administrators.
The page, which is not endorsed by Harvard, includes a description claiming that the group was formed to “defend the inherent rights of White Europeans” and links to the website of the American Renaissance—a group listed as a White Nationalist extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Several “White Student Union” pages referencing other colleges also cropped up on the social media site last week, seemingly in response to recent debates about diversity on college campuses and the experiences of minority students there. Many of those other pages appear to be fraudulent and were removed in some cases after universities made complaints.
Whether any Harvard students or affiliates are responsible for the Harvard page remains unclear. In an emailed statement, Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane affirmed that “it remains unclear who is behind the creation of the unauthorized accounts” but indicated that administrators are “closely monitoring the situation.” Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana notified Harvard’s Office of General Counsel about the page, according to Dane, and the office is investigating.
The administrator of the page has posted photographs that purport to show posters advertising the group displayed around Harvard’s campus. A Crimson reporter located a poster referencing a “White Student Union” on stands near Canaday Hall in Harvard Yard on Sunday evening, but was unable to verify the identity of the creator of the Facebook page.
Responding to Facebook messages from a Crimson reporter on Sunday, the page’s administrator repeatedly refused to share his or her identity, citing security concerns, but claimed to be a Harvard student. The person behind the Facebook page also declined the reporter’s request to meet on campus or at The Crimson’s offices for an interview.
The Facebook page surfaced online as questions about race and diversity at Harvard have come to the forefront of campus dialogue. More than a week ago, an incident at Harvard Law School involving pieces of black tape placed over the portraits of black faculty members prompted a police investigation; just days earlier, Harvard students took part in a march in support of black students responding to allegations of racism at other colleges across the country. A Harvard College working group also recently released a report calling for widespread reforms to better accommodate minority students.
Several students who saw the Facebook page over Thanksgiving break reacted with both dismay and confusion.
“My reaction was less shocked and more disappointed,” Brianna Suslovic ’16 said. “It sort of felt inevitable because these types of groups have appeared on other campuses.”
While Suslovic said she thinks the page may be associated with Harvard students, Michael F. Musharbash ’16 said he thinks the page is likely a hoax, but still troubling.
When he first visited the page, Musharbash said he thought it was “ridiculous.”
“I came to the page and I thought there was no way this is a real Harvard student,” he said. Musharbash described images that the page has posted as troubling, and he said he hopes it is removed.—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.